Authors notes: Something I've wanted to write for a while to celebrate 100 years of the Titanic sinking, but due to a failure with my computers cooling system I could not release it in time for 15th of April.
The Real Ghostbusters
Ghost ship Titanic
(A.K.A. Ross Pickering)
Polly was rudely awoken one night because of an irritating rattle from the light above. She was a very light sleeper and even creaking floor boards would wake her up. But she decided against opening her eyes and trying to get up because through her own eyelids she could tell it was still night time.
Polly Spencer was only eight but she had a keen mind for her age, she could already read and write and could do her times tables quite easily and would often boast about it not to be spiteful but to impress others. It didn't occur to Polly but this made her an odd one out because she was regarded as the lower class by society, her family didn't have much money and daddy gave that as the reason for wanting to move to the new world of America and start over. He spoke highly of America and of the 'American dream' and over the years thousands of immigrants as they were called flocked to her shores for a chance of a better, richer life, and the Spencer's had started off their journey the richest way they could.
Daddy had saved up enough money, which he had collected penny by penny in the work house until he had enough to buy tickets on the most luxurious steam liner there was going to America. The ship was the largest of any vessel and even Dad boasted about how the cabins even in third class were comparable to first class on any other ship because 'steerage' as third class was crudely called had their own individual cabins. This seemed natural to Polly but then her father explained that on other vessels steerage passengers were often huddled together in large groups in large rooms. Polly could sort of understand this, back home, her old home in Southampton most families she knew of often slept three or four to a single bed but often in cramped conditions.
But this ship had roomy cabins with working toilet facilities for each cabin though it was placed right next to the four bunk beds that decorated the walls of their narrow cabin, but as far as she was concerned it was luxury to even have a single working toilet at all when she was used to going to an outhouse out the back of her old home.
Though she had nothing of experience to compare it to she could already tell this ship was a marvel. Even its name gave promise of something mighty, solid and safe, unsinkable. She was called the Titanic, a symbol of human's progress and dominance over nature and the elements because even god himself couldn't sink the Titanic, or so the papers said.
"Everybody up, get dressed, put your lifebelts on!" Polly's eyes tried to stay shut to go back to sleep but there came a mighty bang as someone knocked hard on their cabin door. "Everybody up, get dress, get your lifebelts on!"
She heard Daddy get up, throw open the cabin door to talk to the steward. "Here, what's all this about?" he asked.
"Captains orders, sir" the steward said before moving on, knocking on more doors to get everybody up. "Everybody up, get dress, get your lifebelts on."
Polly tried to just drift back to sleep, she didn't want to get up, it still felt too early. That's when she noticed it, there was usually a slight rumble from the engines and boilers below but she could hardly feel a thing. Had they stopped?
There was a lot of commotion in the corridor outside and then came an almighty hiss from somewhere outside, above them.
"What the hell is that?" she heard Daddy ask someone.
"They must be venting the steam from the boilers in case they explode" said another voice she didn't recognise "Haven't you noticed? We've stopped."
"Are you sure Packy?" Daddy asked. Oh,it was one of the fellow steerage passengers Daddy had befriended while on this trip, an Irishman who came onboard at Queenstown.
"Do you know what's happening?" he asked Packy.
"I don't know but you'd better do as the steward says. I've just come from my cabin further forward, there's water coming up through the floor." What was there to worry? Polly thought, the Titanic is unsinkable.
This however seemed to convince Daddy to get them all up. Mummy didn't want to get up nearly as much as she did but Daddy insisted. Her brothers and sisters were also woken up, Jack, Sarah and Margaret, none of them really wanted to get up but Mummy and Daddy pressured them. Daddy collected a bunch of life jackets from under their bunks as they all got dressed and they strapped them on to them.
They left their belongings, they didn't have many anyway and began following the other passengers further back, or aft as she had learned to say. Moving along the corridor felt like a bit of a challenge, it felt as if the deck was slightly tipped up against them, Daddy heaved her onto his shoulders because he said she was moving too slowly and as she glanced back she saw between rushing passengers what looked like water slowly flowing up the corridor towards them but she soon lost sight of it as they climbed a flight of stairs.
They spent what felt like hours trapped in the lounge area with hundreds of other steerage passengers waiting their turn to go to the steerage boat deck, which was odd because Polly had only ever seen life boats on the very top deck for the first class passengers when she boarded.
She glanced at a clock on the wall, the hands read 1:15am in the morning. Why was there a boat drill this early in the morning? And why was the deck at such an odd angle now? She didn't want to think that the ship might be sinking because the grownups had said Titanic was unsinkable and grownups didn't lie, didn't they?
Very soon Daddy took both her and Mummy to one side with another couple of families and together they snuck away from the lounge area and started roaming through the maze of corridors the Titanic consisted of. Once or twice they had to go back because of locked gates and one time the men of the group lost patience and smashed a gate down using whatever they could lay their hands on, mostly an axe they found in a box on the wall.
They climbed the decks, as long as they kept going up they'd reach the boat deck. They'd emerged into a very glamorous looking dining area. As they moved towards a door on the far side Polly noticed a trolley on wheels, it was slowly but surely rolling towards the lower side of the room tipping room.
They had been going up and down and all around the ship for what felt like hours and soon mummy and the other women of the group demanded a rest. Daddy and some of the men scouted ahead for a route to the boat deck leaving them this dining area. Polly spotted a clock, the hands read 1:45am.
She wasn't certain but in the shadows, in the corner of the room she could swear she could see something, a short little round creature, what was it? Some sort of dog or something? She approached to get a better look at it, It was very hairy and stood on two legs and it was green. As she approached it sank away into the shadows.
"Polly come back here!" mother insisted and reluctantly she did as she was told.
Daddy came back and said he'd found a way to the boat deck and up just a couple more flights of steps they emerged onto the boat deck. There was a lot of commotion going on and the distinctive music of a band was playing somewhere on the deck.
Polly suddenly found herself hoisted up into the air by Daddy and placed into a life boat and Mummy climbed in with her, they were followed by Jack, Margaret and Sarah, but as Daddy tried to go in the dark suited officer pushed him back. "Women and Children first!" he insisted and Daddy calmly stood back.
"Daddy, you are coming with us aren't you?" Polly asked.
"I'll be along soon, I'll just get into a different boat that allows men on." He kissed her on her forehead "I'll see you soon."
He then kissed mummy and each of his brothers and sisters and he stood and watched as the boat was slowly lowered into the freezing waters, which was much closer then Polly expected, they'd barley dropped two decks when the boat hit the sea. The waterline was just inching up a porthole she could see in the hull and through it she saw water starting to gush into the room on the other side of it.
Polly looked up again to get another look at Daddy, but he had gone. The crew of their lifeboat pushed away and those that had ores started rowing the boat as fast as they could carrying them further and further away from the Titanic, and from Daddy.
The ship's bow was hidden by the advancing waters that just continued to rise higher and higher and the stern started to rise up out of the water. Then when the water reached the bridge of the fore funnelled liner and started flooding it she could now hear screaming and shouts of fright as some fought with a boat on deck while others retreated further aft of the ship.
The band stopped playing and all they could be heard were the screaming cries of those remaining onboard the ship but only for a few seconds because the band started playing again, this music was slow, moving and sounded very sad, it sounded like a hymn 'Nearer My God to Thee'. It only lasted for a couple of minutes but as it concluded the ship's bow suddenly took a plunge and started sinking like a duck.
People scrambled back away from the advancing waters while others tried to fight to float a lifeboat that was still on the deck as the sea rose around it and above the howl of people trying to cling to survival an unearthly groan could be heard from the ship itself, as if the Titanic herself were screaming in pain.
Some in Polly's boat looked away from the sinking Titanic but Polly remained fixated by it, she tried to pick out Daddy among the people on deck but it was difficult because they all just looked like scurrying ants from this distance.
Titanic groaned again and there came a loud crash as the forward most smoke stack broke away and tumbled into the sea crushing whoever was underneath it.
As the bow sank the stern rose only slightly higher out of the sea but stayed at a very shallow angle and still the ship groaned with pain which added to the odd feeling that the Titanic herself was dying, an illusion that seemed more real when the lights dimmed momentarily but quickly came back.
The water had advanced up to the third most smoke stack from the bow and the Titanic gave an almighty howl. Polly still tried to pick her Daddy out among the crowd gathering at the stern. She prayed he'd managed to get off the ship and she was hoping she could not spot him up there because it meant he might've escaped in another boat, but it was just so difficult to pick out individuals because the boat she was in was still rowing away.
Her search ended however when the lights of the Titanic suddenly flickered and went out altogether. Darkness shrouded everything except the screaming and the howls of the Titanic's hull. There then came what sounded like a gunshot followed by a loud crackling noise, followed again by the loud howl of some unearthly beast. Though she couldn't see anything she could hear the sound of metal being ripped out of shape and torn apart. Screams louder then she had heard from the remaining passengers on the Titanic were louder than ever. Her eyes gradually became used to the dark, though she couldn't see the ship directly she could see it silhouetted against the stars of the night sky. The stern was raising much, much faster than it had before and came to stand almost perpendicular to the sea as it continued to be dragged down by the weight of water in the bow. Seconds later the large dark shadow that was the Titanic vanished from view leaving behind nothing, not a sound, not even a ripple. The unsinkable Titanic was gone.
All the Titanic had left behind were the ghostly screams of thousands of people in the sea, all screaming for help and splashing to stay afloat in the freezing waters, but soon even that faded to nothing.
The darkness and the silence was ominous, no one spoke, no one hardly moved, they only shivered. The only noise was that of the water gently lapping against the side of the boat and ice breaking away from nearby icebergs and crashing into the water. It was a darkness that would haunt Polly for the rest of her life, because she knew her hopes of ever seeing her Daddy again had died with the fading lights of the Titanic.
80 years later...
Co-ordinates 41 degrees46 minutes north, 50 degrees 14 minutes west.
Dr. Robert Davis sat hunched over his control Desk, Dr. Mark Stevenson sat beside him in the tiny space of their submersible, the Atlan. Robert glanced at his control panel showing what to most people would be a meaningless map of dots but it spoke volumes to him, echo location signatures designed to locate what he was looking for. He glanced out the tiny, thick window and saw nothing but dark blue. This far down under the sea light could not penetrate far, you had to bring your own down here.
The pressure outside was over 6000 pounds per square inch, if they were outside this sub in the actual water their bodies would be crushed under the pressure. If this tiny sub got even the smallest leak it would implode within microseconds. This journey over 2 miles down to the Atlantic floor was not meant for the faint hearted, it was dangerous. This far down they were cut off from the rest of the world, no communication between them and the research vessel the Oak Endeavour above. If something goes wrong down here there was little chance of a rescue.
Despite this these three braved the elements to see and study the most famous sight on the floor of the Atlantic. Robert glanced at the screen again, they were slowly approaching a giant, elongated, triangular shape in the darkness.
Robert shifted his weight to get a good look out the window. There it was. Coming out of the darkness, half buried deep in the mud was a giant, iron hull. The Atlan slowly came to a stop and began ascending up and over the bow railings, as they did a rusticle growth broke away and fell to the sand below.
The wreck of the Titanic was a sad sight, once the largest and mightiest ship in the world, built with the best materials available by the greatest minds in ship building of 1912 and yet despite this the greatest ship in the world struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sank in just less than three hours with the loss of over half its passengers and crew.
The event never happened in Roberts lift time but looking at the wreck he could just imagine what it must've been like that night, if he looked hard enough he could imagine the passengers scrambling back along the decks when the ship took her plunge. As the sub moved over the collapsed bridge and wheel house Robert spotted the telemotor, where the wheel man Officer Low spun the wheel to turn the ship before striking the berg. To the left of it as they moved over towards the boat deck he saw one of the lifeboat davits, the nearest one was stood tall and erected not leaning out as the others were when they lowered the boats. In Roberts' mind that one erected davit was the scene where First officer Murdock and the crew fought to get a collapsible boat from the top of the bridge, over the side and into the water, all the while conscious that the freezing Atlantic was fast creeping up towards them.
The wreck was mostly rusted and being eaten by bacteria, it was covered in a light cover of sand and silt, but still it had a beauty to it in a gothic sort of way.
The sub came to a stop above where the dome of the grand staircase once was, it was ripped out as the ship plunged to the Atlantic floor.
"Release the RV" Robert instructed and Dr. Alan took the controls of the C.O.D. or Cod, a small remote controlled robot housed in the subs belly.
"Okay, take it down the grand staircase" Robert instructed.
"Right boss" Alan said, taking the controls that moved the RV. A camera housed in RV fed pictures back to the sub showing what the RV saw.
"What do you think the rate of decay is like?" Alan asked, part of their mission here was to determine the state of the wreck. It was very slowly decaying due to the presence of metal eating bacteria, it was all quite fascinating because the Titanic was the only source of pure metal on the ocean floor and yet this type of bacteria has evolved to eat the iron in the ship and produce these massive growths decorating the wreck. Eventually the ship would collapse in on itself leaving nothing but an orange stain on the ocean floor.
"Hopefully not as bad as we think" Robert said stroking his thin beard "Ironic isn't it, her sister ship sank in shallower, warmer water, been under for nearly as long and yet the Britannic is far better preserved then the Titanic."
The RV sank slowly into the bowels of the ship, turning left and right slowly moving deeper and deeper into the wreck, looking for where they had put a bunch of pure irons samples about a year ago for the bacteria to feast upon.
Having collected samples from the bow, boat deck and the staircase they were now directing it to a cabin on B deck. Dr. Alan took a couple of extra controllers from their housing in the console to activate the manipulator arms on Cod. On an upright table the iron sample sat, slightly discoloured yellow by the bacteria, the robotic arms reached out, gripped the looped string on the sample and lifted it up off the table and deposited it in its carrying basket. Having collected all the samples the RV turned and began slowly moving away.
"Wait, wait" Robert said grabbing Alan's arm to make him stop the RV. "Turn back to the left."
"Why, have you seen something?" Alan asked.
"Something caught my eye, just turn back to the left" Alan did as asked
"What's that on the floor?" Robert asked, "Pick it up, let's get a better look at it."
The RV's arms reached out, gripped it gently in its claw and lifted it up to its camera. It looked like a broach of some kind, it had an unusual design with a deep, blue jewel set into it.
"Hey did you see that?" Alan asked "I swear I just saw an eye looking at me!"
"It 'is' an eye" Robert said, the blue jewel was shaped into an eye with a red ruby as the iris.
"No, it blinked!" Alan said disconcerted.
"It's just your imagination" Robert said. "Let's bring it up"
"I thought this was a research mission?" Alan said, this was a research mission but there was nothing wrong with 'recovering' a few small items for posterity, after all the wreck and its contents didn't really belong to anyone.
"Just bring it up, it's either that or let this remain unseen in the bowels of the Titanic for the rest of days. Plus, someone will probably take it later, might as well be us."
Alan placed the broach into the basket and turned to leave the cabin and follow its long cable back to the sub.
It was about to leave the halls of the wreck and emerge back into the grand staircase. Suddenly the picture started picking up interference, it started out as a bit of static but soon you couldn't see where the RV was going.
"What's going on?" Alan asked putting the RV into reverse to see if it was just the area they were in. "We're not picking up interference from the wrecks wireless room are we?"
"No, we're too far away from the wireless room" it was an odd effect everyone seemed to pick up when they entered the wireless room. The equipment was none functional, yet it somehow produced interference to electrical devices, but what they were experiencing was far, far worse. Then the picture vanished into a hiss of static.
"No! What's wrong?" Robert said looking at the fault indicator on another panel, it was going haywire, all the lights were flashing on and off. "Must be a local fault with the RV, launch the spare." They had a second RV in case the first was lost somehow.
Alan prepared to launch the second one when "Umm, sir" Alan said pointing out of the tiny window out of which they could see the top of the grand staircase. Floating out of it was the severed cable of the RV.
Bang, bang, bang. Went something on the hull of the sub.
"Great, now the sub's knocking against something." Robert said.
Knock, knock, knock. The sub was then moving but not under its own power!
"Are we caught on something?" Alan asked checking a bank of computers. "Something's dragging us back1"
"Like what? A giant mollusc?" Robert ridiculed.
"Well, I don't know Robert, but it's moving us." The sub moved off the upper deck and sank a little to lay on the boat deck.
Knock, knock, knock. Robert and Alan glanced out the windows to see if they could find the mysterious source of the banging, and Alan shrieked in fright.
"What is it?" Robert asked
"There's someone out there!" Alan said hysterically.
"You mean 'something'?" Robert corrected.
"I know what I mean!" Alan added "I saw a man, a man out there!"
Robert looked out of Alan's window, but there was nothing out there. "Very funny"
"I mean it Robert, I could see him as clear as I see you. His face was decayed and hideous, his hair was unkempt and flowing, his eyes were vacant and his mouth was full of terrible, yellow teeth!"
"Are you sure you didn't just see a reflection?" Robert joked.
"No, it wasn't, I'm sure that..." Alan paused and looked at Robert "What do you mean a reflection?"
"No, I mean that sometimes your mind plays tricks on you." Robert said trying to calm his college down "Let's just forget it and find the source of this banging."
Bang, bang, bang, bang went something against the hull again and this time it echoed around the interior of the submersible.
Bang, bang, bang - bung, bung, bung - bang, bang, bang. "That sounded like mores code" Alan said.
"Don't be so ridicules" Robert said, but then the banging came again repeating the same series of bangs and bungs as before, then a pause before it repeated and then another pause and repeated again, and again.
"S.O.S.?" Alan said scratching the back of his head.
"No it's just your imagin..." Robert trailed off when he looked out the small view window again, and his jaw dropped open and his eyes widened in fear.
Outside in the silted water there was someone, a man with pale, sulking skin, dull looking, white eyes and wore a tatty, black suit. It, whatever it was, was banging on the sub's hull repeating S.O.S. again. Its jaws parted and closed again as if it was trying to say something in the cold. Robert thought he recognised that walking corpse man, then as it repeated S.O.S. again the image of someone came into Roberts mind. He'd only ever seen him in old, black and white photos but you could see the resemblance. It was Jack Philips, the Titanic's wireless operator! It repeated S.O.S. again on the hull and then started rapping a series of knocks and bangs that were not S.O.S. but were clearly more mores code, but neither Alan or Robert understood mores. Plus they were too fixated with what they were seeing outside.
The sub began to rotate again by itself and all around them there were dozens of ghouls, decayed corpses all hammering on their sub! If they keep banging it was going to implode!
"GET US UP! GET US UP!" Robert screamed, Alan hit the switches blowing the weights holding the sub on the floor and slowly the sub began rising up away from the wreck and those ghouls. As it rose the ghouls reached up as if trying to drag them back. One of those ghouls had got his leg caught in the severed cable of the lost Cod and was rapidly rising up with them. It clawed at the cable until Robert hit switch to sever the cable sending that ghoul heading straight back down to the wreck.
"Did we just see that?" Alan asked.
"No I didn't!" Robert panted, his heart pounding in his chest. It looked like the Titanic had ghosts onboard the wreck, but Robert refused to accept that. It must just be an imbalance of oxygen and nitrogen in their air tanks causing them to hallucinate. But Robert was sure about one thing, he wasn't going back down there in a hurry.
To Be Continued...
Authors notes: This prologue follows new evidence that the Titanic did not raise as high as it was depicted in the 1997 movie.
I haven't described the Titanic breakup in detail because most survivors of the disaster testified at the inquiries that the ship did not break in two as she sank, making the official story from 1912 to 1985 –when the wreck was discovered- that Titanic sank intact. To reflect this I've made Polly's point of view of the breakup like how I imagine most people would've seen it. She didn't see it directly since the lights went out but she heard the noises of it splitting breaking apart. (A paragraph I decided to delete from the prologue depicted what people thought those loud noises were, either the rear most smoke stack falling down, or the sound of Titanic's boilers breaking loose and falling through the ship, but I decided to remove it and a lot of other stuff as well to avoid bogging the story down in too much unnecessary detail.)
All characters in this prologue are all created by me and any resemblance to anyone alive, dead or even undead is pure coincidence. Don't worry fellow RGB fans, the guys turn up in the next chapter I'm writing ;)
Hope you enjoyed reading the start of this story, and I look forward to any comments you may wish to share.